Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.
I must confess that my plan to lose two inches off my waistline by summer is not going well. Part of the blame rests with a lovely little restaurant in my riding called La Porto A Casa, which has the best tiramisu in Canada. I am prepared to certify that on the floor of this House of Commons. It has, as a business, been a model of a Canadian success story.
Only about four years ago, it opened the restaurant and, within several months, it had to double in size of square footage to accommodate the enormous demand. It now employs 16 people in our community. It has never asked for a government grant or handout but it pays salaries and wages, and provides the citizens of Barrhaven with a wonderful meeting place and a good, solid, authentic Italian dinner or lunch.
The only thing not on the menu, though, is a workplace pension plan. The reason for that is that out of the 16 employees that one would have in a business that size, it does not make financial sense to hire somebody, or a group of people, to administer a pension plan. In fact, there are businesses just like La Porto A Casa, and business owners, just like Ozzie and Caroline, right across this country. They might be small mechanic's shops, landscaping companies, small restaurants or small accounting firms. By themselves, they do not have the economies of scale to provide a workplace pension plan and, as a result, 60% of Canadian employees do not have one.
However, what if people like Ozzie and Caroline from La Porto A Casa, Sonny from Sonny's Manotick Garage and thousands of other small businesses that employ millions of people combined could pool their efforts and provide such a pension program for their employees?
Let us imagine if banks, insurance companies and existing pension plans, like the Ontario teachers' pension fund, could offer such a pooled service to employees of small businesses just like the ones I just finished describing. Such would provide an opportunity for the 60% of Canadians who currently lack a workplace pension fund to buy into one.
That is exactly what the bill before the House proposes to do. They would be called the “pooled registered pension plans”. They would be administratively simple and cost-effective, and they would provide mobility to the workers who travel between small employers on a fairly frequent basis. That would allow these businesses to come together and pool the costs and the risks associated with a pension fund for employees.
This is an excellent opportunity to allow working people to have greater participation in our economy and to set aside money that would be invested for their future. By the way, that money, when invested, is not simply hidden under somebody's bed. In fact, it is invested in other Canadian companies that then use it to hire people, buy machines and grow wealth and prosperity for other workers, creating a virtuous cycle.
The opposition has said that it opposes this idea. It does not believe that small businesses like La Porto A Casa and Sonny's gas station in Manotick should be allowed to pool their resources in order to create a pension fund opportunity for their employees. The reason the opposition does not like the idea is because it says that these funds would be invested in the stock market. That is partly true but they could also be invested in real estate, bonds or treasury bills.
However, it is true that almost every successful pension fund in the world does invest in the stock market because stock markets grow and it is good when pension funds grow with them. In fact, all of the pension funds that the left of centre opposition claims to support are invested in the stock market. Let us take, for example, the Quebec pension plan, which is the province's equivalent of what we in English Canada call the CPP. It is widely invested in private sector businesses.
One business in which the Quebec pension plan is invested is Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. It is an oil sands company taking 100,000 barrels out of the Alberta oil sands every day. That would make it a perfect target for the NDP. The only problem is that the same oil sands company pays enough dividends into the Quebec pension fund to cover the retirement cheques of 1,100 workers every year. The opposition would raise taxes on that company, impose a carbon tax and raise taxes on profits. The only problem with that is that the same company can only pay benefits to the Quebec pension fund out of its after-tax profits, which means that if taxes go up, the dividends to pension funds go down.
Half of the Canada pension plan is invested in companies just like the one I mentioned already. It is invested in the stock market. Even public pension funds that are administered by government are invested in the private sector stock market. Let us take the defined benefit pension plans of, say, the Canada Post employees. The top five holdings in the Canada Post pension plan are Toronto-Dominion Bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., all banks and oil companies. The twin villains in every left wing storyline are the ones paying dividends into the pension funds of mail delivery workers and other employees of Canada Post who will rely on the profitability of those same businesses for their retirement.
The opposition does not believe that pension funds should be invested in the private sector. In fact, it does not think there should be a private sector at all. It believes in growing government and having government take over every sector of the economy. I will explain what I mean by that. Its leader has said that there is something called Dutch disease; that is to say that there are too many Canadians working in the energy sector and not working elsewhere. However, according to the S&P/TSX composite index of the Canadian Stock Exchange, the energy sector is actually not the biggest. The financial sector is. The problem is that the NDP does not like the financial sector either. One-third of the entire valuation of the TSX includes banks and other financial services sectors. The NDP does not like that one-third. Then we have the energy sector, which makes up one-quarter. The NDP does not like that either. Now, well over half of the value of the publicly-traded economy is in the crosshairs of a prospective NDP government.
The NDP is an opposition party that believes that government should control everything. There is a laboratory for that approach. It is called Greece. In Greece, the government debt is 160% the size of the entire economy. Its debt has now been downgraded to junk status. In Portugal, it is the same thing. Nine other Euro currency countries have also been downgraded. In Washington, where over the last several decades this kind of approach of big public spending has been tried, the government debt is now bigger than the entire U.S. economy and American taxpayers spend more on interest to the People's Republic of China than the People's Republic of China spends on its military.
On this side, we choose the Canadian way, a free market plan to create jobs and enable small businesses to provide opportunities for retirement security to their employees.
Therefore, in the interest of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, I ask members to support the bill.